Can ‘TrustPilot.com’ Be Trusted?

In a word ‘No!’ and I inadvertently have evidence that I chanced upon. TrustPilot.com is website where people can post reviews for free, but they also have a paid service where businesses can use the site to enhance their credibility and SEO. What the website policies say, but actually do are very different things. First of all, I had never used this site as I don’t usually check the top listing of any internet search, generally because I suspect they have manipulated it. However, I was reviewing LookFantastic.com and their appalling service (a lengthier review to follow) and I stumbled upon other reviewers discussing TrustPilot.com and that it was the only review site where the company had a high rating (8.6/10, compared to other sites where they got 1.5/5 at the reviewcentre.com, and 1/5 on sitejabber and reviews.co.uk). In several reviews people claimed that TrustPilot removed their reviews as the companies concerned had flagged them. Now, this intrigued me as unconnected people at different times of the year were saying more or less the same thing—their reviews were removed by TrustPilot at the request of the companies concerned, and naturally these were all negative ones. They didn’t seem to mind about the 5 star ones that did look fake however.

In the interests of consumer transparency, I decided to try this out for myself. Indeed it seemed odd that there were no negative reviews on LookFantastic.com on TrustPilot (unless you looked and filtered the search by stars) unlike other sites such a sitejabber.com and reviewcentre.com where there was a mix of both negative and positive, but mainly negative ones. At least these sites looked consistent.

I posted my genuine negative review and it remained there for a couple of days, and there were other negative review posted. Then suddenly on Saturday afternoon, LookFantastic.com flagged mine and 16 other negative reviews in the space of 3 minutes claiming:

LookFantastic reported this review for the following reason(s):

  • The company has no record of this reviewer

 When a review is flagged, it is invisible to the public and hence there were no negative reviews on the LookFantastic until the fifth page. I then received an email from TrustPilot asking me to prove I had made a purchase and was a genuine customer:

Thanks for taking the time to write a review on Trustpilot. We work hard to ensure that all reviews on Trustpilot are based on a buying or user experience and we hope that you will help us achieve our goal by verifying your review of www.lookfantastic.com.

How to verify your review:

  1. Find your order confirmation, invoice or similar from your buying experience with www.lookfantastic.com.
    2. Read the following guide to assure, that your documentation complies with our guidelines – https://support.trustpilot.com/hc/en-us/articles/201839083
    3. Save your documentation as a PDF or screen shot and attach it to a reply to this email.

When we receive your proof of purchase, we will insert the order ID into the system and return your review to Trustpilot, providing it complies with our user guidelines. Only the reviewed company will be able to see this number, and we won’t forward any additional information like e-mail addresses or full copies of your invoice or order confirmation. Should you not wish your order id to be visible for the reviewed company, please note this in your reply.

Unfortunately if we haven’t heard from you within seven days, we will have to archive your review without further notice.

 Within the hour I sent according to their guidelines what they required as proof:

List of documentation we have accepted as proof of purchase:

Here is a list of documentation that we accept as proof of purchase. If the only documentation you have isn’t on the list, you can send us what you do have and we’ll look into it.

  • Order confirmation
  • Invoice
  • Delivery reports
  • Screenshot of your logged in user-profile*
  • Screenshot of email conversation between company and user**

 I sent an order confirmation, invoice and screenshot of my order logged into my account, but I heard nothing until Monday. That’s how LookFantastic may have manipulated the system. They know TrustPilot compliance doesn’t work on weekends, so that’s two days that any negative reviews are hidden. In addition I decided to report suspected abuse of the system by LookFantastic, again according to their guidelines:

Activities that we consider misuse include, but are not limited to: 

Reporting genuine reviews that comply with our guidelines in order to have these reviews removed

Example: The director of Company A logs into her company’s Business Account on Trustpilot and flags the worst reviews about her company so that they are made temporarily unavailable on the Trustpilot platform, pending investigation. None of the reviews actually contravene Trustpilot’s User Guidelines, so the director makes up a reason for reporting them.

Mass-reporting only negative reviews from the company’s domain

Example: The PR Manager for Company B logs into its Business Account and flags all the 1-star reviews of Company B that contain names of people or email addresses because these reviews contravene Trustpilot’s User Guidelines. However, the PR Manager does NOT flag 4 or 5-star reviews that also contravene the guidelines in exactly the same way.

It is very hard to defend how 17 negative reviews are flagged in 3 minutes over a few pages (because it takes at least 30 seconds to read each review, and then to check if that person was genuine) isn’t abuse. It has been 6 days now and TrustPilot have not replied to that query. They have however tried to not publish my review. Here is what they said:

Thank you for your reply and documentation.

When examining a proof of purchase, we look for four crucial elements – name of the company, name of the buyer, date of the purchase, and an order-id. Unfortunately, what you have sent us is not enough for our purposes because we’re unable to link your Trustpilot account details (e.g., email address, username) to the documentation. Thus, we kindly ask that you re-submit a more compliant proof of purchase so that we can deliberate on your case as soon as possible.

 This was never mentioned before, because for security reasons very few people use their real names on such sites, and you shouldn’t use the same username on everything. I then sent proof that I own both email addresses, forwarding to myself, and screenshots with both email accounts open at the same time with a time stamp. At this point I am questioning why I need to prove who I am over one review? I have sent all the documentation, it’s normal for people to have usernames and more than one email account, and I can only deduce that because LookFantastic are a paying customer they will publish negative reviews only if they have no choice (the customer proves it within 7 days). After another couple of days the review was made visible again, possibly due to my telling them I would forward the emails all day to them from both accounts to prove it was me. However, I can see why people who have a flagged review that has been negative don’t bother chasing it up, because it seriously takes work and effort. That’s the idea, to make it hard to deter people from posting genuinely bad experiences.

In the meantime, I am not done with TrustPilot saying one thing and doing another. I took to Twitter to find others had suspicions over an abundance of 5 star reviews all of a sudden, and I reviewed TrustPilot on their own site. It should be noted ‘Hayley” responded to all reviews, good and bad except mine which got a response a day later than all the others. Here is another reviewer that has experience the same (https://uk.trustpilot.com/users/5750a7480000ff000a25c907)

After a week, LookFantastic.com replied to my review and said they were sorry and would take note of my feedback, while TrustPilot replied and assured me they would look into any reports of abuse. The system works for the businesses, in that they can flag a review for whatever reason and control the ones that are visible. People know there are fake genuine reviews, but how many of those are verified ones too? There is always a way around the system, and a true review will always highlight the good and bad things. Can you trust a review site that needs to keep its business customers happy?

Rating 1/5: There are too many flagged reviews, and they all seem to be negative ones. I have flagged a positive one that looked fake and nothing has been heard. My initial complaint that a company had been abusing the system has not been addressed. I deduce they hope I forget about it and let it lie… no, I won’t!

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